December 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

December 3, 2021

Noon at Ghost House Farm, and Peggy is screaming again. The guttural cries coming from an abandoned house where a 1940s blue dress hangs in a ruined kitchen. Peggy’s dress, perhaps? Is this the mournful ghost of an old Keweenaw potato farm?

Not exactly. Peggy is my daughter’s lead goat, the fierce protector of two other mamas and their collection of six kids. My grand “kids.”

You see, at noon, Allison and her husband Drew take their two new puppies (Oberon and Uther) to their dormant market garden to train. They each put a meal’s worth of kibble in their pouches and take turns calling the pups across the snowy enclosure. Whoever has the attention of Obie and Ute feeds them kibble as a reward. The boys sit, lie down, and circle clockwise and then counterclockwise. Then, they get called across the garden to perform their training with their other human.

Peggy screams because she knows that that grain and hay follow puppy training.

Have you ever heard a goat scream? If you haven’t, here’s a take:

Every time I hear Peggy, I think she’s dying. She’s not. She’s impatient for goat kibble. The worst screaming happened the day Allison and Drew got the goats and they transported the herd in their 2007 Toyota Rav. Think, car. Yes, they moved nine goats in a car but had to make two trips. Peggy was in the first lot to move and she screamed frantically for the rest of her herd. Allison wasn’t sure they wanted goat milk after all.

My son-in-law was determined to have goat milk. He knows it makes my face contort to even think of drinking it. Actually, cow-dairy aggravates a condition he has. But he does think it’s funny to watch me struggle with liking anything flavored like a goat. To offer me goat cheese is to suggest I go lick a goat. *shudders*

Me and goats go way back to coastal California ranches where young vaqueros learned skills with smaller critters like goats. I was riding goats as a toddler and by the time I was five or six, I was goat-tying in the San Benito Rodeo. I had won Best Girls Outfit when I was four. It wasn’t about my hand-sewn western shirt or my little boots and white gloves. It was a competition to rein a working cattle horse in a simple series of tasks under the guidance of an adult.

This old photo my cousin shared with me a few years ago is grainy, but you can see the steep and dry hills of the terrain where we lived. Those stirrups are genuine vaquero tapaderos on a child’s saddle that cinched a full-grown horse. We were horse people. Not goat people. But somehow, I had licked a goat one too many times to tolerate their dairy.

Peggy likes her neck scratched, though. I’ve relented enough to feed and touch the goats. It was the littles goat that won me over — Beast. He’s a snuggle kid. My daughter is in love with Beast (they must give off love parasites like cats). He sits in her lap. I want to read to the goats and think it would be grand if Peggy screamed. It would send me into a fit of giggles. What should I read to goats?

It’s December 2, the darkest night of the darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere (please send sunshine from down under). Solstice season begins with the New Moon tomorrow. Many prepare to celebrate the Christmas holiday, and we become more aware of other festivities and celebrations as we share around the world. All our ancestors tracked the moon, stars, planets, and sun rotations. Maybe our current climate crisis would be resolved if we reconnected with our roots in nature.

But I think we are all weary. Pandemic fatigue is global. Worry is just a thought away. Uncertainty looms.

This is the season, no matter what we each celebrate and why, to be kind and compassionate. This is a time to rally joy. Not a false mask of happiness or toxic positivity, but joy that blooms from gratitude. When we feel grateful despite weariness and fears, we cultivate joy. Here’s a cheery song to boost our spirits (thank you, Annie Lennox).

Goats and Christmas music. That’s a specific vibe. Already, I’ve issued this prompt to my ENG I class and I hope to publish some of their stories with yours next week (I’ll indicate in the byline if they are a FinnU student). This semester has been their first time writing flash fiction. I’m pleased with their efforts and many have said it was their favorite part of the class.

My first semester of teaching is soon to end. I can hardly register that I’ve graduated. What a year it’s been. I’m looking forward to hot chocolate, and festive lights, and sappy holiday movies. This is a time to reflect, to draw inward, and prepare for a new year. We can go quietly or we can go screaming like Peggy.

December 2, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the littlest Christmas goat. Who does the goat belong to? What is happening? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 7, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

How Christmas Got His Name by Charli Mills

The milk goats woke Sunny late on Christmas Eve. Their screams rang with real terror. Ma burst down the stairs by the time Sunny flung open her bedroom door, following. Ma’s shotgun rang out like bursts of fireworks. Four dogs fled, yipping.

“Blasted city-slickers. Don’t they realize when they let their canines out at night dogs form a pack and turn feral?” Ma swore. I crept behind her to see the littlest goat bleeding from his torn neck.

Next day, neighbors visited with apology cookies, and crooned regrets over Christmas, the little goat bandaged and blanketed beneath our tree.

????????????

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85 Comments

  1. Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

    I’m afraid my Christmas fatigue is stronger than my pandemic fatigue, but I’ll do my best with the prompt. Never heard a goat scream but another strange sound woke us last night:

    • Rebecca Glaessner Author

      How beautiful a sound Anne! I never thought foxes called like that. I think I heard a clip of them yipping while playing once, but that’s all. What about a possum’s growl? That’s a sound that had me fearing an alien abduction one night.

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        I can understand that. Having a possum growl from a tree beside my head in utter darkness.. that’s a whole other story, and I didn’t know any animal that made any noise even close to that. I very stiffly yet frantically shuffled to safety so as not to draw attention to myself ???????? I doubt the possum was as clueless as I was haha

      • Charli Mills

        That would be disconcerting to hear at night!

    • Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

      Okay, I managed, but it is rather silly. It’s a tribute to one of my favourite novels, Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, the perfect corrective to the hurry-home-for-Christmas myth.

      Enid’s Road to Damascus

      With Alfred housebound, Enid had to fetch the Christmas tree herself. Unable to drive, she’d drag it home on a sledge. With two days before family descended, she hadn’t a spare moment. Yet she paused in the dark to admire the spangled sky. A star in the east seemed to beckon. Mesmerised, Enid followed its lead.

      [cont]

      https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal/what-makes-jonathan-franzens-the-corrections-my-perfect-christmas-read

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Perhaps Enid at last found happiness, if not in The Corrections, in your flash . I like that your flash celebrates diversity and different holiday customs.
        PS, I’m a humbugger, and don’t need turkey on the 25th of any month.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Reading it, quite liking it. (The Corrections)

      • Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

        Glad you’re enjoying The Corrections, D. Having nagged my husband to read it (twice) and him trying and abandoning it twice, I’m a litte nervous about recommending it (but I still do).

    • Charli Mills

      I am off to my last day of teaching my first semester and want to respond more fully, but with the discussion between further awful sounds (especially the fox) I couldn’t resist chucking and sharing this song:

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Ha! I was about to plug this in then saw you’d done it. This was annoyingly popular among the fourth graders a few years back.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Charli, what sound does a raccoon make? ????

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! Todd hasn’t forgotten how annoying this song is! It’s catchy, though.

    • Liz H

      Y’all shoulda heard my last cat, when she wanted food!
      Raggedly scary!

    • pedometergeek

      I don’t know about opossums, red foxes, or goats, but the sound of two cats hissing, growling, and fighting can cause a fright.

  2. Rebecca Glaessner Author

    Goats are fierce little creatures. Have you heard or seen a Pygmy goat before? I can imagine “tall poppy syndrome” would make their screams a worthy competition to mamma goat’s. Your flash was tragic for a moment, but the warmth of Christmas, apologies and forgiveness, came through beautifully.

    My prompt image this week is an elephant however. How on earth am I meant to merge the two? I’m thinking unlikely friendships. But then there’s the sci-fi I need to slip in (more a want than a need, I’m curious to see how I manage it).

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        I should be! But it’s the weekend and the hubs and I spent a couple extra hours watching a show together. I jotted down some key ideas, themes, words, etc though, and will definitely be sleeping on it. I like what I’ve got so far. I wonder if I can conjure up some “dream magic” and get my brain to do some extra lifting on the pondering front while I sleep.

  3. Liz H

    Welcome to your FinnU students!
    Your post gave me lots of ideas, from the silliest to some sadness (poor little Christmas!) —

  4. denmaniacs4

    Cheesy, The Goat

    Winter driving.
    Don’t like it.
    Clumsy in the snow.
    But the best-laid plans of mousey men, eh!
    Out of milk and need to get to the store.
    Coin flip.
    Walk two miles on icy roads, or drive.
    Heads.
    Drive.
    Scrape the windows, inch along.
    Clear in places, ice in others.
    Slowly I go as befits a geezer.
    And there she is.
    Cheesy.
    Smack dab in the middle of the road.
    Neighbour Fern’s pet Pygmy goat.
    Brown spots that look slightly orange.
    Color of Cheezies!
    Scoop her up, take her home.
    Settle for a Christmas gift…jug of goat’s milk.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Is this a true story?
      Did Cheesy squeak or squeal or scream upon getting scooped up?

      • denmaniacs4

        D. Avery, it is as true as fiction can be…

      • denmaniacs4

        My facts are often a little cheezy…

      • Liz H

        You know you two are incorrigible, right?

    • Jules

      I’ve got a DIL who rescues chickens that fall off trucks…
      So a goat rescue – how ever fictious could be real. 😉

  5. TanGental

    Naïveté nativity

    When winter struck Little Tittweaking it did so like a demented blacksmith. The place was gripped by frozen dawns, impassable drifts and foggy deceits.
    The one high spot for all, bar Dumpling Pendulous was the village nativity. Everyone enjoyed the carols, the mulled wine, camaraderie and mulled wine. Except Dumpling who always played an animal: donkey, camel, flock of sheep… This year she complained so the Reverend Dimpled Whitethigh offered her an alternative. ‘You can be the goat.’
    ‘How is that an improvement,’ she moaned.
    The Reverend grinned. ‘You’re not just a goat, but the G.O.A.T.’

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Whoa. This flash is the greatest of all time!

      • TanGental

        It’s very hyperbolic of you to say

    • Doug Jacquier

      Damn you, there went my only inspiration thus far. GOAT stealer! Or is that rustler? 🙂

      • TanGental

        Oh sorry Doug. Preplagarizing ought to be a crime

      • Doug Jacquier

        Indeed. Mend your ways at once. 🙂

      • TanGental

        I am ritually humiliating myself every two hours.

    • Jules

      I used G.O.A.T. in my title 🙂

  6. mrmacrum

    If I stuck around CR more consistently, I might have a better handle on how things work. Once again I find myself semi clueless about how to post and its my fault, no one else’s.

    Regardless, I posted my 99 words about the Nativity Goat on the form and just to be sure, I will also post here in the comments.

    God’s Goat

    Mary was not happy. Seventy parasangs over two days on the back of an ass was the last straw. She glared at Joe as he placed fresh hay in a manger for the kid. A small goat watched and immediately hopped in the manger and pooped.

    “Mary, the little asshole shit in Jesus’ bed.”

    Busy unpacking the donkey, Mary did not hear Joe.

    “What Joe? “

    Louder now, “The goat shit in the manger.……… If the big guy gets wind of this I wouldn’t want to be in that goat’s hooves.”

    The goat looked up at Mary and bleated.
    ___________________________________________

    Prompt – story about the nativity goat. 99 words exactly
    ___________________________________________
    https://lostinthebozone.blogspot.com/2021/12/gods-goat-cr99.html

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Coulda happened that way. There is certainly a certain amount of manger danger, such as goat poop.

      I would say you have done well on all counts and all bases are covered. The form gets your story into the bin where Charli can collect it and publish it with the others next Wednesday. By also putting it into the comments section we can read it here and comment. And you have a link to your blog, encouraging two way traffic. You will see that different people do it differently, and it’s all good.

  7. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Pullin’ T’gether

    “Dang! Frankie’s gotta make deliveries in this blizzard.”
    “Why Pal? Jist wait out the storm.”
    “Cain’t, Kid. This flash’s one a them Christmas tropes.”
    “Oh. So common sense don’t prevail. Burt’s all saddled?”
    “Harnessed. Snow’s pilin’ up. Frankie’s takin’ a sleigh.”
    “Curly’ll be a sled hog along with Mause ta point the way. An’ we’ll harness them goats from the Saloon, ‘specially the littlest one.”
    “Ya got a littlest goat kid, Kid?”
    “Yep. Rudy.”
    “S’pose Rudy’s nose lights up.”
    “No, we got Ernie fer that. But lil’ Rudy will bleat a warnin’, keep all the other sleighs at bay.”
    XXX

    *An’ so Frankie got her team harnessed an’ hitched
    took off inta the storm an’ not a one a them bitched
    On Curly, on Mause, an’ Pepe blazing the trail
    All pullin’ t’gether with holiday mail
    An’ Ernie is heppin’, he’s brought along nips
    But remindin’ ol’ Frankie to just take wee sips
    An’ fin’ly Kid’s goats is doin’ good fer a change
    Pullin’ with Burt across snowbound range
    In a blizzard so blindin’ all the Christmas tropes could crash
    But the little goat with big voice saves the day in a flash*

    “What d’ya think Kid?”
    “Not baaaaaaad.”

    • Doug Jacquier

      Pure as the driven snow and XXX all in one. There’s a first. 🙂

    • Liz H

      I suddenly want hot cocoa by the fire, and a children’s picture book…

      • Liz H

        And mebbe some Schnapps?

    • Jules

      I like fictional truths that make me smile.

  8. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Comfort and Joy”

    “Daddy, why’re we going to the auction? We’ve got Bud.”
    When one of Lucienne’s team died, he took the other Morgan. “Bud’s old, but is fit enough for our needs. He’s still strong and he’s patient. But he’s in a new barn and he’s lonely, Hope.”
    They walked around the pens, pausing to look at a Shetland pony, even sheep.
    “There Daddy.”
    “A goat?”
    “Those two littlest ones.”
    With Hope doing the bidding they got the goats without contest.
    “What’re you going to do with these goats?” the auctioneer asked Hope.
    “They’re Christmas cheer for Bud. Comfort and Joy.”

    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2021/12/04/crlc-challenge-littlest-christmas-goat/

  9. Jules

    Charli,

    I like your little goat story. I must admit I haven’t heard a goat scream before.
    Having an interfaith family means celebrating many different traditions. I did a flash fiction for you that ends in a poem called ‘The Essence’. All the four prompts used and the poems form directions are at my blog post.

    G.O.A.T Kid

    G.O.A.T Kid
    (99 word flash fiction with an Essence ending)

    Pesach is when Ari recalled the notable story of the goat bought for two coins. Now it was Chanukah and Ari was not impressed to have his sister’s toy goat trampling across his head on the way home, even it’s little black hooves were made of soft silk. The family took advantage of the unusual warm December weather to visit the local goat farm. Ari wasn’t used to the aroma of goats, or the taste of their milk. Goat wasn’t something his family ate, even if it was kosher. Spring dreaming…

    notable, little goat
    rhymed fable, his dreams float

    © JP/dh

    “Chad Gadya or Had Gadya (Aramaic: ??? ??????? chad gadya, “one little goat, or “one kid”; Hebrew: “??? ??? gedi echad”) is a playful cumulative song in Aramaic and Hebrew. It is sung at the end of the Passover Seder, the Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Cool. I like how you roped in other traditions and holidays.

  10. Doug Jacquier

    Here’s mine for this week. Mind how you go, it’s a little bit naughty.

    Carols are Karens to me

    When it comes to Christmas, I make the Grinch seem like a pantywaist. When I asked the supermarket manager to turn off the blaring Mariah Carey Christmas carols he declined, so I superglued all of the card readers in the self-serve checkouts. When my neighbour demanded to know why I was letting the street down by having no Christmas decorations, I offered to deck his balls with boughs of holly. But lest you think I’m entirely heartless, I am participating in Beard-ember for my favorite charity, the Ebenezer Scrooge Home for Destitute Misanthropes, by growing the littlest Christmas goatee.

    • SueSpitulnik

      Now that’s a bah humbug story that made me laugh a lot.

      • Doug Jacquier

        Thanks, Sue. The commercial orgy that Christmas has become is beyond control so the only defence is laughter.

    • Liz H

      (Face in hands, laughing or sobbing, we can’t tell).
      The unbearable punni-ness of being, be-goat)

      • Doug Jacquier

        .. and Jehosophat be-goat Seth and Seth be- goat etc 🙂

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      All reasonable responses. I enjoyed your bots.

  11. Norah

    That’s a funny story about Peggy and her screaming, Charli. I didn’t know goats screamed like that. I understand why you wouldn’t like anything goat dairy after your rodeo experiences. You and SIL have different needs to cater for. We have a few differences like that in our family too. It’s makes catering interesting.
    I felt sorry for the little goat in your story. He should have been safe. City people need to learn about dogs. It sounds like a story based in fact.

    • Norah

      I’m back with my story https://norahcolvin.com/2021/12/08/the-littlest-goat-flashfiction/

      The Littlest Goat
      “You’re too little.”
      The all-too-familiar chorus stung but he determined to show them size didn’t matter; not the way they thought.
      Before long, opportunity came knocking.
      The others were too stupid to check before opening the door, too slow to escape the intruder and too big to hide. The littlest one watched from the grandfather clock as the wolf devoured them one by one.
      When Mother returned from Christmas shopping, the littlest goat told all. Together, they found the greedy wolf and rescued his brothers.
      The littlest goat showed that being clever, quick and brave beat size any day.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Such an opportunity that came knocking. This story also rang some bells. Great new old tale.

      • Norah

        Opportunities are what you make of them, eh?

    • Doug Jacquier

      Ah, the three wise a-mens. Fun stuff.

      • Liz H

        We three goats a-glorious are
        Round the world we travel a-far
        Bridge and mountain, garage and down town
        Tracking the Christmas star…
        (I’ll just let myself out, now…)

  12. SueSpitulnik

    Hi Charli,
    Since I was a little girl I have wanted a goat, or two. They make me laugh to watch them do the things goats do every day, like jump up on tables and try to roll on barrels. A goat screaming is familiar to me, but always worth an investigation to see if they are in trouble or just complaining.
    I am unfamiliar with a four-year-old child on a full-size horse. I think I would be frightened the child would fall.
    Congratulations on the end of your first college teaching gig. I’m sure your students will remember their class as all of us at the Ranch remember your essays and prompts. May we all be more aware of creating joy because our paths have crossed. On to the prompt…

    An Unexpected Party Guest

    Multiple cars arrived at the No Thanks to unload food for The Band of Brother’s holiday party. Tyrell and his cousins made sure the meal had a southern flair by donating pots of greens, pans of cornbread, and his mother’s pecan pies. With all the commotion no one noticed the furry little face poking out from the front of his jacket.
    When things quieted down Tyrell took the littlest Christmas goat anyone had ever seen out of its hiding place, gave it some milk, then put him on the floor to explore. His antics kept people chuckling all evening

    • Liz H

      Hope Tyrell waited until all the pie was served out…
      those little guys have an sppetite!

      • Liz H

        *appetitie*

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      We had a little goat, Spike, when I was a kid. Spike enjoyed sharing a beer with my father, climbing the granite boulders and destroying my mother’s flowers. Spike had good taste. So keep an eye on this littlest goat at the No Thanks.

  13. Jennie

    Your stories are always one of the few that literally take me away. Thank you, Charli. Your writing is a gift to readers.

    • Jules

      When times are tough…

  14. Pete

    “Well, this is something, Johnny. I see you have Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, and some rather unique additions as well.”

    “Thanks Sister Emily. Oh, see the Lego wise men?”

    “Okay, um, yes. Oh with a light saber.”

    “He’s a Jedi.”

    “I see. I think. And what is this one?”

    “That’s Muhammad Ali.”

    “Of course. Remind me why again?”

    “’I’m the greatest of all time.’”

    “Oh, you’re doing an impression.”

    “Watched the Will Smith movie on Netflix. Okay, I have a cow, a pig…”

    “Yep, still not following. Why is he Ali the manger?”

    “He’s the Christmas G.O.A.T., Sister Emily.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      It meets all the criteria, for the prompt and for the nativity. Perfect. I don’t know why but it gives me a good feeling to think of Muhammad Ali represented in that scene.

  15. pedometergeek

    Gladys Tidings of Joy

    The littlest goat, Gladys, was excited. She was going to be in a living nativity. She told Aloysius that she wanted to play an angel. “They’re a-a-awesome! They announce the birth to the shepherds.”

    Aloysius was skeptical. “Are all the animals taking part?” he asked.

    “The cows, sheep, and donkey will be near the manger, but I’m an angel,” Gladys said. “I’ve practiced jumping up at the right time. They’ll pick me for sure.”

    Tryouts came, but Gladys was picked to play herself.

    On Christmas Eve, Aloysius’s clover magic granted her a one-night wish. Gladys was an angel.

    ~Nancy Brady, 2021

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Gladys has a thoughtful friend. I am amused to think of a goat as an angel.

  16. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    The Kids Are All Right

    “Hey Pal. Seen Shorty?”
    “No Kid, an’ I also ain’t overlookin’ the fact she’s got tons a student work ta look over.”
    “She in over her head?”
    “Heck no! Jist up ta her neck in work thet’s got deadlines.”
    “Well, mebbe I kin somehow hep out with all these littlest goats that are gathered up here, mebbe herd ‘em up ta HQ.”
    “No Kid! Thet’s all Shorty needs is a herd a littlest goats at HQ eatin’ up her students’ term papers.”
    “There’d be fewer ta grade.”
    “Jist leave the kids alone Kid. Shorty’ll be by for ‘em later.”

    • Liz H

      Glad you mentioned. Given some of the content in the blog, I was a little worried.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thinkin’ the Boss is all right, jist real busy.
        In New England they’d say “Wicked busy”. Is thet just a New England thing?

  17. Marsha

    Super fun post, Charli. There’s a lot going on in your life! Wow. I loved the fox song and your imaginative story. Congratulations on all your hard work and how it has paid off. Have a wonderful Christmas. 🙂

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